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Thursday, September 21, 2023


Review by Barry Meehan

The film Anatomy of a Fall is part of The European Film Festival 2023 which runs from October 12 to 22, 2023 with screenings of all 16 films at cinemas in Cape Town and Johannesburg, and limited screenings in Durban, and online.

Director – Justine Triet

Script – Justine Triet and Arthur Harari

Language/s – English, German and French (with subtitles)

Duration – 150 minutes

Genre – Courtroom Drama/Thriller


Anatomy of a Fall is a highly complex but intriguing and very watchable film by French writer and director, Justine Triet, who became only the third woman in history to win the coveted “Palme d’Or” award, the top honour at the Cannes Film Festival. Julia Ducournau was the winner in 2021 for Titane, and Jane Campion took the prize in 1993 for The Piano.

Married couple Sandra (Sandra Hüller) and Samuel (Samuel Theis) live in what should be an idyllic location – a wooden cottage in the heart of the French Alps – with their son Daniel (Milo Machado Graner), who is visually impaired after an accident some years prior. Daniel goes out for a walk in the ever-present snow with his dog Snoop, but returns to find his father dead on the frozen ground, with blood pouring from his head. So the question is – did Samuel slip and fall from the attic, where he’d been carrying out repairs to the house? Or did he jump in a suicide attempt? Or was he pushed? If so, by whom?

The “fall” in the title refers to a lot more than Samuel’s fall from the attic. Above the fall of Samuel’s literary career, it refers to his and Sandra’s very existence in their relationship. The script puts their marriage under incredibly detailed scrutiny as they battle to cope with infidelity, blame for Daniel’s accident, fear of failure, lack of support for each other and more. She is French, he is German – languages that are as far apart as the character’s distance from each other – so they use English as a middle ground.

As flashbacks show their relationship becoming more and more acrimonious, communication becomes harder, with both of them believing that they are giving more than taking, until it becomes impossible for them to see the other’s point.

Anatomy of a Fall centres on the arrest of Sandra, who is accused of her husband’s murder after the authorities fail to define the cause of his death. The court case is very cleverly written in that it leads us one way and then the other as regards her involvement in the demise of her husband, until the explosive climax. Performances all round are excellent, with special mention to be made of Sandra Hüller’s measured portrayal of a woman whose life has fallen to pieces around her, and Milo Machado Graner as Daniel, who should have a long and illustrious career in the industry, if this emotion-provoking performance is anything to go by.

Anatomy of a Fall is highly recommended as an intellectual look at the basics of marriage and European courtroom procedure. But bear in mind when watching the film this line from Sandra’s lawyer – “A trial is not about the truth. It’s about how people perceive you.” - Barry Meehan


Screenings take place at Ster-Kinekor’s The Zone in Johannesburg, and The Labia in Cape Town. Each film will screen once.

Ster-Kinekor Gateway in Durban will present a limited programme of films not available in the online streaming. Five of the most recent films will only show in cinemas: Anatomy Of A Fall, Goodbye Julia, The Old Oak, The Teachers Lounge and Mavka – The Forest Song. 11 films can be viewed for free online.

Visit for more information or click on the European Film Festival logo to the right of this article.